In the just concluded 30th Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa, 23 countries including Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia and Kenya pledged their commitment to establishing a Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) marking a major milestone in the continent’s aviation history.
The move which has been in the works for quite some time is expected to revolutionize the air transport industry in a major way. As a matter of fact, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) lauded the move saying that it would not only help improve the competitiveness of African airlines but would also make air travel far more accessible.
“The SAATM has the potential for remarkable transformation that will build prosperity while connecting the African continent. Every open-air service arrangement has boosted traffic, lifted economies and created jobs. And we expect no less in Africa on the back of the SAATM agreement. An IATA survey suggests that if just 12 key African countries opened their markets and increased connectivity an extra 155,000 jobs and US$1.3 billion in annual GDP would be created in those countries,” said Raphael Kuuchi, IATA’s Vice President for Africa.
According to the Secretary-General of the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) Ms. Iyabo Sosina, the 23 countries that have committed to SAATM had a combined population and GDP of about 670 million and $150 billion back in 2015 but their GDP could double to $300 billion due to the numerous benefits the deal could bring to the continent.
So how was SAATM conceived? As mentioned earlier, the idea isn’t new and has been around ever since the open skies pledges – 1988 Yamoussoukro Declaration and 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision.
In 2015, the Assembly of Head of States and Government adopted the Declaration on the Establishment of a Single African Air Transport Market and also issued a commitment (Assembly / AUC/Commitment/XXIV), to the immediate implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decisions towards the establishment of a single African air transport market by 2017.
Each of the member states that were signatories to the declaration then constituted a Ministerial Working Group whose purpose was to follow up the implementation of the SAATM as well as spearheading a lobbying campaign to bring in more member states.
Some of the key benefits of this initiative include the fact that tourism in the continent is likely to register a significant increase since the agreement will encompass at least 75 percent of Intra Africa air transport.
With the potential to service approximately 200 million passengers per year, the SAATM will not only enhance the convenience and ease of travel but will also be instrumental in lowering air fares by more than 25 percent.